Coach Micah Grimes from Covenant School has refused to apologize for the game, saying that he had nothing to be sorry for and that his girls played “with honor and integrity.” After issuing such a statement, Coach Grimes was then fired from his coaching responsibilities.
So what should evangelical Christians make of this story? Here are a few thoughts.
First, students need to experience losing. Just two nights ago I was playing ping pong with one of my students in our youth facility. I am fairly decent with any kind of racket/paddle sport; I don’t lose in ping pong too often. My student, who is an incredible guy, was playing his heart out. I beat him soundly, 21-7. And I will every time we play, I won’t let him win. Until he wins. My daughter, Callie Grace, can expect to grow up experiencing what it means to lose as well. I won’t always just let her win because she is my daughter and because she is cute (which she is!). Schools and organizations that refuse to let children and teenagers lose by giving all participants a trophy and sending everyone home with a certificate of victory do not understand the importance of experiencing loss. What is at stake is not only a God-centered worldview in which self-esteem takes a backseat to a life lived for the glory of God, but also to the practical realities of life post high school. When a previous culture of earned recognition gives way to an environment where everyone is equal regardless of merit, then hard times are coming when college applications are written, athletic scholarships are attempted, or any other form of merit based placement is given. Yes, every child is special. But we live in a world where there is loss; not everyone is the same.
Second, we cannot divorce the above comments with the single most important biblical imperative. Love God and give Him Glory. This will always mean that the sphere of competition is placed well inside the realm of loving God and giving him Glory. My interaction with my student during our ping pong game was not one of absolute domination. My intention was to win, but in the process I made sure that he was having fun, was winning some points, and hopefully was getting better at the game. More importantly, the ultimate point was to build a stronger relationship with this teenager for the glory of God. What is striking concerning the victory by the Covenant School athletic program is to place this scenario within the scope of their vision and purpose statement: “To enable Covenant student/athletes, coaches, and spectators to glorify God and be witnesses for Jesus Christ.” Can they be faithful to this vision by defeating Dallas Academy? Absolutely. Can they be faithful to this vision by striving for a 100 point margin of victory against a vastly inferior team while the parents and spectators frantically cheer on the massacre? I don’t think so. Hard to discern how that is enabling to the glory of God.
Third, there is just human decency involved here. Regardless of your doctrine of depravity, most will agree that people, based on the conscience that God gives all, are capable of having a heart in some matters. I played 14 years of competitive tennis, including four years high school and four years college. I have been around the most competitive of athletes and coaches and I have never met anyone who would have allowed this to happen. Coach Grimes just simply comes across as a jerk for his refusal to acknowledge that having a spirit of winning does not mean we check our humanity at the back door.